"I know that we were supposed to stay outdoors, even though it was a little bit away from us. It was some of the sailors coming back and rioting in Halifax"
My name is Don Sale. I joined the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve, known as the RCNVR, in May of 1942.
I was drafted off Owen Sound in late June of 1944, and was scheduled to go into what they called the MTE [Mechanical Training Establishment] course in Halifax to become a Leading Stoker. However, a chum of mine and I decided that we'd like to move on, and we volunteered for a draft overseas in the fall of '44, and wound up at the Canadian naval base in Greenock, Scotland - HMCS Niobe.
On January the 1st, 1945, one of the men from the Stoker Drafting Office and wanted five stokers for a secret draft. Five of us put our hands up and wound up on the jetty with our kit bags a few hours later and went out in a harbour craft to the... what turned out to be the HMCS Uganda - one of the largest battleships that I'd been close to in my career.
I was immediately assigned to B-Boiler Room, and the ship sailed that night for Alexandria, Egypt, and after five week's training subsequently landed in Australia. After two weeks in Australia, around the 24th of March, we sailed northward into the Pacific war theatre to join the British Pacific fleet. We operated as a support force in the battle of Okinawa and various islands around there. Being a stoker I didn't really know what was going on. The fleet was subjected to suicide [Kamikaze] bomber attacks on at least three occasions.
We had been at sea for over a hundred and forty days without putting foot on land at all. I was sent home on leave after two days in Esquimalt. I was sent home on thirty-days leave, and while en route home word came through that the Japanese had surrendered and World War II was officially over.
[HMCS] Uganda was taken out of the fleet because when V-E Day occurred in Europe, the Mackenzie King government of the day, in all their wisdom, said that you must volunteer for service in the Pacific. I, and ninety-nine percent of the people in the military in those days, volunteered their services. So you had to volunteer for service in the Pacific. And around about the end of June of '45, we on the Uganda - who were attached to the British Pacific fleet - were asked to volunteer in the Pacific. Over six hundred of us said, "No, we're not going to volunteer for service - we're here! Why should we volunteer? We're here doing our job, and leave us alone." So as a result of the fact that more than two-thirds of the crew said, "No, we're not going to volunteer," they took the ship out of the British Pacific fleet. And one day a Cruiser arrived from either Australia or New Zealand and relieved us, and we took off for home. I understand that the headlines in the Los Angeles Times read, "The only ship that voted itself out of a war." And that was the history of the HMCS Uganda. It's also interesting to note that only a few weeks later, on September the 2nd, the official surrender of Japan was held in Tokyo Bay, and Canada was not represented, and we would have been undoubtedly there in Tokyo Bay for the surrender ceremony